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Ontario Liberals show their true colours

By: 
John Bell

June 3, 2018

With less than a week to go before the provincial election, Premier Kathleen Wynne conceded that 15 years of Liberal rule were over. The surprise announcement left her supporters in tears and pundits scratching their heads. How voters will react remains to be seen.

“After Thursday, I will no longer be Ontario's Premier. And I'm okay with that,” Wynne told the media. “Because, as I've said many times before – it's not about me.”

She then proceeded to make it all about her and her party. The polls show the Liberals are facing disaster: their entire caucus will be able to meet in a booth at Tim’s. Wynne’s announcement was a Hail Mary attempt to snatch back the Liberal vote that is mostly deserting to Andrea Horwath’s ONDP.

The stated strategy is to elect enough Liberal MPPs to deny either the NDP or the Tories a majority government. It is the Goldilocks approach: the NDP is dangerously radical on the left (I wish they were); the Doug Ford Conservatives are dangerously radical on the right (they are); but the Liberals are just right.

The problem is that Liberal candidates are running distant third in almost every riding. If voters heed the Wynne’s plan, they will only undermine the NDP vote, resulting in more Tories winning.

“As far as I’m concerned this strategy is really good news for the (Progressive) Conservatives,” U of T political scientist Chris Cochrane told CTV news. “It’s probably bad news for the New Democrats to the extent that it has an effect.”

That Wynne’s ploy favours Doug Ford is certain. Two questions remain. First, is it accidental that the Liberal brain trust is tilting the table in favour of the Tories? Whatever the party rank and file might think, for weeks rumours have been filtering out of the Liberal war room that strategists would prefer a Doug Ford victory. They believe he would galvanize opposition and be a one term premier. But once progressive voters desert them for a real social democratic alternative, they might never come back.

After all, there is an essential affinity between the Liberals and Tories that has been made obvious in the latter days of this campaign. Before the capitulation, Liberal ads focused not on attacking Ford, but on the NDP’s relationship with organized labour. Wynne’s anti-worker rhetoric stripped any pretense of Liberals being “progressive”. All that remained was the pro-corporate party of privatization and corruption.

The more important question is: at this point will voters give a damn what Wynne says or does?

Her unpopularity is at historic levels, and remaining supporters should be turned off by all the cynical maneuvering. And the horror of a Doug Ford victory not only remains, it is intensified.

Whether Wynne’s ploy backfires in favour of the NDP, or ends by bolstering Doug Ford, the Liberals and the fairy tale of the happy middle are over and done with. What remains, electorally as with every aspect of society, is a growing polarization impossible to ignore.

 

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